THE under-20s took the opportunity to check on some of their younger players with the North of Scotland League programme now complete and those too old for the under-17s next season did not disappoint with a hard-working display in a 4-2 away defeat at Badenoch and Strathspey Welfare League champions, Grantown United.
With key men Matty Macleod, Callum Ednie, Sam Gordon and Ian Payne training with the first team, Craig Munro injured, Calum Grant at university and Aaron Fraser working, coach Stuart Finnie handed maiden starts to Craig McDermott and Joe Cuthbert while all four subs – Craig Given, Alex Geddes, Sandy Main and 15-year-old Tyler Eadie – made their under-20s debuts.
The home side powered into a two-goal lead in the opening stages with the first goal coming just four minutes in. A high free kick into the box from the right was knocked down at the far post and Grantown were on to it quicker with the ball swept home from close range.
Then, six minutes later, Nairn were caught on the break as Grantown cut the County defence open with one long ball allowing their pacy attacker to run in and net.
But Nairn settled down from there and deserved their first goal on 34 minutes. Ryan MacBean pounced on some defensive indecision and fed Craig Alexander on the right. His low, angled drive was only parried back into the danger area with Ryan MacBean on hand to pounce.
But only three minutes after Nairn halved the deficit, they found themselves two goals behind again. And there was nothing they could do as a free kick from 22 yards was set flying into the top right-hand corner.
County pulled another one back two minutes before the break though with substitute Craig Given’s pressure on the Grantown goalkeeper paying off as he forced the stopper to sclaff the ball straight to the unmarked Ryan MacBean, who took a touch to compose himself and then placed the ball home.
Grantown started with an early goal in the second half as well as Nairn switched off at a short corner from the right on 52 minutes allowing the ball to be laid out to just inside the box and rifled low into the net.
Nairn’s young side continued to battle away though and were unlucky not to pull a goal back late on with Jack Maclean’s header cleared off the line and Joe Cuthbert’s dipping free kick from 25 yards tipped over the bar. At the other end, Fraser Wilkie in the Nairn goal pulled off a fantastic point-black save with the home side also rattling each post.
Nairn County – Wilkie, Jack Maclean, McDermott (S. Main 58), Tweedie (Colliar 78), Wheeler, Colliar (Given 35), Alexander (Eadie 58), Barton, MacBean (Geddes 71), Cameron Maclean (yellow 56), Cuthbert. Subs unused: